WHEN her youngest son was diagnosed with mild autism last year, Madam Cynthia Ho did not know what to do. Loh Teck Yee, now five years old, has difficulty communicating his wants and simply cries and screams to get attention. Madam Ho, 40, a housewife, was then referred by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) to a programme that educates parents of children with developmental needs. She is part of the initial intake of about 40 who completed the programme before its official launch yesterday. She now deals with her son’s condition with more ease.
Put together by KKH’s department of child development and the Parenting Research Centre, Australia, with the support of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Temasek Cares, this pilot programme is the first of its kind here. KKH chief executive officer Ivy Ng said at the official launch of the programme yesterday: “We hope that the knowledge and skills that parents and caregivers gain from it will reduce stress levels at home and contribute to greater parenting satisfaction.” Parents or caregivers who sign up for this programme are required to attend five weekly sessions of a parent support course called “Signposts for Building Better Behaviour”. Each session lasts about two hours.
A “Signpost” facilitator, trained by KKH’s department of child development, will conduct the course, which helps parents understand, communicate and handle their children better. For example, parents will be taught how to identify the cause when their children throw tantrums, instead of simply attributing it to “misbehaviour”. They will also be taught to better manage their children’s behaviour. Facilitator Elsie Cheong, 44, said the programme can also benefit parents through mutual interaction. “Parents can encourage one another and share their experiences so they know that they are not alone,” said Ms Cheong, who is also a senior social worker.
The programme aims to reach out to 1,500 families in three years. Madam Ho gives credit to the programme for improving her family life. “I do not have to cry with him any more, I know how to handle him,” she said.